8 min read

Stone Soup Supper Club: November - butter-fried gnocchi in ricotta sauce

A Book and a Recipe for November
Stone Soup Supper Club: November - butter-fried gnocchi in ricotta sauce
Photo by Gábor Molnár / Unsplash

Welcome to the Stone Soup Supper Club! As a paying subscriber this year, you can expect a book and a recipe at the start of every month, and then we’ll read, cook, and spend time together all month long in our cozy clubhouse. Drop in whenever you’d like; there’s no obligation, but the doors are always open.

This month’s writing date will take place on Saturday, November 19th, at 10am Pacific Time

What’s New

It’s November! I can hardly believe we’re so close to the end of the year already. It’s been such a joy in October to chat with many of you in the newly-functional comments section. I look forward to finding out what you’ve been up to this past week!

November brings NaNoWriMo. Lots of you have mentioned that you’re planning to participate in the annual challenge this year. I would love for the Supper Club to be a place that supports you in your efforts! Start a comment thread and keep us updated on your progress so we can cheer you on!

n 2023, there are going to be some cool new benefits to being part of the Supper Club, including more varied writing dates and exclusive previews of a cool new feature I’ll be running. If you have time and energy to help spread the word about the Supper Club so we can invite some more folks into our cozy clubhouse in the new year, I’d be so thankful! This link will generate a tweet for you.

Now, without further delay, let’s take our first bite out of the brisk month of November with a book and a recipe.

Let’s Read

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek.

I had the opportunity to read this book several months ago and was absolutely blown away by it. It is furious and frightfully embodied, a quick and brutal read that I found entirely absorbing. Reading it in the bathtub is a choice that will enhance the book in the most upsetting ways I can imagine, and I am sharing that from experience.

Also, it just won the Shirley Jackson Award!

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Let’s read Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn. Order it at Bookshop.org to support independent bookstores, or contact your local indie to order it directly from them or get it from your local library. You can find a list of all the Stone Soup Supper Club books here.

Let’s Cook

This month I’ve become obsessed with making my own gnocchi. It’s a lot easier than I feared! I’m still fine-tuning the recipe, which isn’t quite ready for prime time — but this project has given me an opportunity to revisit my favorite Gnocchi-Finishing Technique. You can use this technique on homemade gnocchi or storebought gnocchi, fresh or frozen, whatever’s available. You’ll need a big pot, a large skillet, and a slotted spoon or frying spider.

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A note on the frying spider, if you’re not already familiar with them! That name refers to this implement:

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This thing is basically like if a slotted spoon had the courage of its convictions. I went without one for a long time, not wanting to add Another Thing to my kitchen. I ended up finally purchasing one a few months ago as part of a set of other implements I needed. I figured the spider would languish in a drawer… but instead, it quickly became one of the most useful things in my kitchen, right up there with my tongs and cutting board scraper. It’s great for expediently removing things from water and oil without bringing a ton of either liquid with you, and it’s also great for quickly introducing a little space between a heat source and an ingredient. If you don’t have one, I can strongly recommend getting one; you’ll find yourself using it more often than you think. This recipe will refer to using the spider, but if you don’t have one, you can use a slotted spoon instead; just make sure you’re thorough about draining off water in the spots where it matters.

Let’s make butter-fried gnocchi in ricotta sauce.

Step Zero — Prep!

  • Zest a lemon
  • Chop up some kind of green herb (fennel, dill, sage, whatever)
  • Put the lemon and the green herb in a big heat safe bowl with a cup of ricotta, and a lot of cracked black pepper. (Don’t add salt until the very end.)
  • Fill a big ol’ pot with water and get it boiling

Step One — Boil the gnocchi. Technically you don’t have to do this — you can just go straight to the pan-fry — but I like the bounciness you get from the gnocchi when you boil first. I find that dropping it right into the pan can make it a little on the dense side. Work in batches, using your frying spider to lower the gnocchi into the water, so it doesn’t splash you. After thirty seconds or so, give a gentle stir to make sure none of the gnocchi is sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Step Two — Prep the skillet. Drop a couple of tablespoons of butter into the skillet and add a good glug of oil (preferably olive oil). Let the butter melt and foam while the gnocchi is cooking, stirring occasionally. Once the foam has mostly died down, put a bunch of cracked black pepper in the pan. If you’re using unsalted butter, put some salt in the pan, too.

Step Three — Transfer the gnocchi. When your first batch of gnocchi is all floating at the top of the water, use your frying spider to scoop them out. Give the spider a good shake over the top of the pot to get rid of as much water as you can, and then drop the gnocchi directly into the skillet. It is important that you do not dump water into the skillet; that can cause a grease fire. You don’t need to pat your boiled gnocchi dry or anything, just try not to bring a scoop of water with you from pot to pan!

Step Four — Cook ‘em. Let the gnocchi sizzle in the butter for 3-4 minutes, until they’re crispy and a little brown on one side; then flip them over. While they’re cooking, drop your next batch of uncooked gnocchi into the pot; by the time the ones in the pan are done frying, the ones in the pot will be ready to go into the butter. Add more butter, oil, and pepper as you go to keep a nice layer in the bottom of your skillet.

(Note that if you are making a big batch, you can put your oven at a very low heat and put the fried gnocchi on a lined baking sheet in the oven to keep it warm while you work.)

Step Five - Sauce time. Remove your last batch of gnocchi and turn the heat off under both the big pot and the skillet. Let everything cool for a minute while you get out serving dishes and whatnot. Once that minute is up, add a ladleful of the starchy water from the big pot into your heat safe bowl and mix thoroughly. (Be warned that, for some reason, this mixture of ingredients gets very splashy.) Once everything is mixed together, pour the mixture into your skillet and turn the heat back on to medium. Add a cup of grated parmesan and stir, stir, stir until you have a sauce that will happily coat the back of your spoon or spatula. Salt to taste.

If you’re like me and you take lots of kitchen shortcuts, you will think, “why not just add the pasta water into the hot skillet, then dump the other ingredients in and go from there”? I am here to tell you: do not do this. The water will boil right away and sizzle and spit, and you’ll end up with oil all over your stove. It’s worth letting the skillet cool down a little extra to prevent that outcome, and the volume and fattiness of the ricotta mixture will keep the sauce in the pan more easily. Learn from my mistakes.

That's it! You did it! Serve the crispy brown gnocchi with a healthy helping of sauce. Put a lemon wedge on the side. Guaranteed success.

That's just the base recipe. You can make lots of modifications.

  • Frying in non-butter fat. Sure! Follow your heart and your experience. Remember that this is going to be overheat for a long time, so choose things with manageable smokepoints; a sesame oil, for example, will probably get smoky at this heat and duration of frying. Also, be aware that the flavor influence of the fat you use will be significant here, so don’t use an oil you don’t like the taste of.
  • Frying in butter and nothing else. I wouldn’t do this one due to the above mentioned smokiness issue. That said, if you’re experienced in frying things in butter and know how to do it without dealing with smokiness, let us know in the comments how it works! I’d love to learn from you.
  • Sub out ricotta. If you don’t want to use ricotta, that’s fine!. You could use greek yogurt if you like that flavor enough; creme fraiche will also work, as will cream cheese. For a non-dairy option, consider coconut cream or silken tofu. You want to aim at a thick, smooth texture and a mild flavor.
  • Sub out the parmesan. The parm in this recipe is pretty strictly about flavor. You can use nutritional yeast instead, or mushroom powder, or a dash of Worcestershire sauce, or a sploot of anchovy paste — anything that delivers a good punch of umami. Or if you don’t want this to be umami-y, leave it out! It’s your life, it’s your dinner, enjoy it!! Rules are fake!!!
  • Flavors. You know I love adding flavor, and there are lots of places to do it here. You can amp up the sauce with garlic, sauteed onions, fresh nutmeg, red chile flakes, the sky’s the limit. Get creative with your fresh green herbs; consider basil, rosemary, thyme. Season the pan you’re frying the gnocchi in with goat horn chile or smoked paprika.
  • Garnishes. You can jazz up the plate with garnishes! Grill a lemon wheel and drop it on top. Fry some sage leaves in brown butter until they’re crispy, and add the sage-butter to the sauce. Grate a huge amount of fresh parmesan on top of Mt Gnocchi. Drop a spoonful of chilli crisp in. Drizzle on a balsamic reduction. Pop open a can of french fried onions. Toast some walnuts. You can do anything!!!

I can't wait to find out what you all come up with!

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As I mentioned at the top of the post, our monthly book and recipe will also be the site of our subscriber chat! Hop down to the comments and let us know if you did anything fun for Halloween. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, let us know in the comments so we can cheer you on!!

Thank you again for joining me here! I can’t wait for what’s to come.